Talk is cheap. Unless it’s really rich talk, like the type that happens hardly ever. Like when a team guarantees victory, and then unbeknownst to its members, has its mouth sealed shut by a motivated and awe-inspiring effort that a box office-breaking, multi-million dollar feature film can’t even do justice.
“That might be the most incredible relay split I’ve ever seen in my entire life!” exclaimed NBC Olympics swimming commentator Rowdy Gaines after the US 4x100 free relay team claimed victory in an all-out duel that muzzled the mouths of the flabbergasted French crew. Earlier, one of the team members of the previously favored squad, as Bob Costas lovingly surmised, spit some heavy trash talk by stating he and his teammates had come to SMASH the Americans.
Talk about fuel to the ever-burning Olympic fire.
After a solid 200 meters by part-condor, part-dolphin, part-man Michael Phelps and teammate Garrett Weber-Gale, the third leg for the US fish hit a current that saw the fifth lane French take the lead over the fourth lane Americans. And for a few seconds, it turned into a full-length lead heading into the turn for the final 50m.
Just as the commentators were going to crown the flibbertigibbity French the winners (as many predicted), Jason Lezak rode into a historical wave that instantly increased my heart rate and had me yelling, “Go! Come on four!” as if I were rooting for an underdog thoroughbred at the Kentucky Derby.
The race was already occurring at a blistering pace – all three leaders were way ahead of the world record line. And then Lezak, who is 32-years-old and coaches himself, did what fellow American Katie Hoff was narrowly unable to do in her 100m back – finish strongly, as in landing the very last touch.
The conclusion was more than strong – it was fierce. It was the fastest split in history (46 flat) by a longshot and concluded with a 3:08:23 world record and only the slightest of triumphs. In closing in on his counterpart, Lezak provided an excitement that we may never witness again in another race, or even the Olympics for that matter, as he overcame odds and dramatically beat his foe to the wall.
Lezak remarked later that he was simply tired of losing, as the US came up short in the last two sets of Games.
As the US team celebrated, Phelps could be heard, yelling, “That’s what I’m talking about!”
Unbelievable. Truly, eight one-hundredths of a second to talk about.